Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

First the fridge dies, and then…

For the last couple of days our LG side-by-side fridge has been dying. Not a great situation, especially given the problems we’ve had with it. And then today I find out that my employment at my current institution is about to cease after 20 years. The following is a bit of reflection about what might happen now.

The last couple of years at the institution have been a boring cycle: org restructure, imminent redundancy, last minute “saving”, period of uncertainty, org restructures, imminent redundancy, glimmer of last minute “saving”…redundancy. So, while there is a tinge of sadness (mostly for the folk “left behind), and a touch of worry (disruption to the family) this is actually a great relief. We’re in a position where this causes no great financial pressure, so not only is there relief, there is some wonder at the possibilities that have opened up.

The PhD

I’ve been working part time on the PhD for almost ten years. The first possibility is to finish the beast, get it off my back. The end is near, the time is now to put head down and get it done.

What do I want to do then?

Then what? Some of the possibilities include:

  • More L&T support/instructional design/educational development within higher education;
    This is the field I’ve been in for a while, there’s some interesting possibilities within this field. It wouldn’t be too hard to do a lot of stuff much better than how it is being done at the moment. However, there’s also a lot of inertia that makes it hard. Not amongst the academics. The inertia I’ve struggled with is the short-term perspectives of senior institutional management and the limited depth and diversity of their insights. Most academics want to engage in context appropriate innovation in their teaching. Most senior leaders want to tick the AUQA boxes and satisfy techno-rational notions of management/leadership – don’t rock the boat. (Note: given my current circumstances, I am probably over stating this case just a bit due to a somewhat lessened sense of objectivity, but the case is there).

    There are some positives here, but there are some negatives.

  • e-learning;
    Where my skills and experience are best used, I think, are harnessing information technologies to support learning and teaching. It’s where the PhD is located and where most of my experience is. The dividing line between this possibilty and the previous is very vague to non-existent. Especially in the similarities around it being fairly simple to do something significantly better than the status quo. However, the problem with senior management continues to exist and for good measure you get some potentially/typically very limited thinking from IT departments. This is the problem with e-learning, it’s currently seen as an IT problem, not a learning and teaching problem.
  • A return to information systems;
    For most of my 20 years I’ve been a faculty academic teaching and doing research. The PhD is within the information systems field, I have some contacts and publications in the area. I could return there. Especially given that my real interest is in developing and understanding new ways of helping organisations harness information technologies – for me e-learning is an application of that. The positioning of IS in relation to IT and other business disciplines is a bit troubling. Also there are a lot of IS PhD graduates, and not many positions.
  • technical development.
    Software development is one of the activities I like a lot. Software like BIM is an example of what I can do, though it’s also an example of the above. There’s a big move towards Moodle, BIM is Moodle…so perhaps a software development role. Perhaps not as intellectually rewarding, but more practically fulfilling.

So no clear cut choices. So, what’s the dream job? At the moment, a research and development job focused at helping a university harness information technology to effectively and innovatively improve the quality of its learning and teaching. Something that straddles information systems and e-learning and is focused on innovation. Especially one that involves being part of a team of talented folk, I’ve had enough of the lone-ranger stuff.

Actually, for some time the institutional inertia around learning and teaching has been getting me down. Perhaps it is time to look for a L&T/e-learning role outside of formal institutional settings, does such exist?

Actually, perhaps its time to really open up to the possibilities? What comes, comes. Perhaps taking me to a place I could never have imagined.


This is the question that is current causing the most heart ache. We have almost the perfect home for a young family. It would be hard to better and even harder to leave. However, it’s located in a regional area and the only place I’m likely to get the type of work I’ve described above, is the institution that is letting me go. Which suggests three options:

  • tele-commute;
    Not a lot of jobs around that do this, especially of the type I want. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Though a straight software development role would fit well here.
  • contractor;
    i.e. short periods away and then back. Again not an ideal approach for the type of work I’d like. But limits family disruption.
  • moving.
    Pack up the family and move to where the work is. A disruption to be sure, but it opens up possibilities.


So what have I forgotten or not even though of? Anyone got an opportunity? Anyone interested in a software developer/information systems/e-learning teaching academic?

Off to buy a fridge. And then see what they have in the way of interesting and productive careers.


PLEs and the institution: the wrong problem


The grammar of school, psychological dissonance and all professors are rather ludditical


  1. I am wondering on your statement about:”The positioning of IS in relation to IT and other business disciplines is a bit troubling”. As you know the IS domain is wide due to its scope which covers multidisciplinary areas in particularly IT and business applications. Hence, I think as the IS scholars, we still can find the new innovations and supporting theories to evolve and contribute on IT development fields. We still have the other opportunities anyway. Just struggle on keeping surviving. Nice sharing

    • G’day,

      I agree that it is up to the IS scholars to think/work their way through this problem and demonstrate their contribution.

      My comment was perhaps more aimed at explaining that I see the IS field as a discipline that is likely to shrink as aspects of its work is merged with or taken over by other disciplines. Especially as IT moves up the abstraction layer becoming easier to manipulate.

      I see this as especially true for the folk in IS doing what I’d label as “behavioural” research. Research that has a long history in related business fields like management, HR, accounting etc. I see those fields doing more and more of the interesting “behavioural” research.

      These are impressions/propositions. Reasons to reconsider whether I want to go back into IS, or whether it might be appropriate to go elsewhere.

      Of course, there’s also an opportunity to engage in this trend, get involved and/or fight against it.


  2. kwilco

    David –

    I’m very sorry to hear of your departure from employment. In my short experience with your blog, you’ve been a bright light for me with your forward thinking and doing. My sense is that you’re too damned innovative for the man to handle. It is also my sense that you would do much better in a more entrepreneurial setting. What about becoming or joining a Moodle consultancy or similar.

    I know the Bill Gates Foundation is very interested in distance learning. Get the degree and apply for grants. Just an FYI, the University of Nevada Las Vegas is in the midst of transitioning. We have an acting director and there will be an opening for an asst director and an IS coordinator. All require PhDs.

    Best wishes and keep up with the blogs. I do a lot of reading and I know that you are on the bleeding edge. Very best wishes.

    • G’day Kevin,

      Thanks for the kind words, and I tend to agree a bit with your diagnosis.

      Nevada sounds interesting. But as you say, the PhD needs to come first, plus I think a bit of fun time with the family. Will see what happens after that.

      As for keeping on blogging, I don’t think I could stop know. It’s become a part of my reflective process and a great way of interacting with folk with interesting and different ideas.


    • damoclarky

      G’day Kevin & David,

      I too agree that David would thrive in an entrepreneurial setting.

      David, you asked for ideas you may have overlooked. Have you considered starting your own business? Start small as a consultancy business. What that business might be I’m not sure, but with your combination of knowledge and skills, I would imagine there should be a plethora of opportunities that await.

      There are always plenty of talented (and not very modest) sidekicks to sub-contract, if you need to. 😉


  3. G’day Damo,

    A purely entrepreneurial setting, especially a small one as a sole worker, doesn’t really interest me. There’s a lot of work to get an organisation of any size ticking along, I’m not all that interested in a lot of that work. Want to do the fun stuff.

    Say what you like about large organisations, a good one does give some freedom to focus on the fun stuff.

    But, never say never. See what the future brings.


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